For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.
1 Corinthians 11:19
This study is basically a study on faith, what it is and its relation to an error that is becoming more pervasive within the Church. An error that is a subtle innocent looking misinterpretation designed to convince that it is glorifying God when in fact it is corrupting his word.
The error is the misinterpretation of the following group of words.
the faith of God
the faith of Jesus Christ
the faith of Christ,
These and other such like phrases are being taken out of their context and a false meaning applied. They are interpreted to mean that it is God’s faith or Jesus’ faith and not our faith in them. They derive this private interpretation by violating one of the basic rules of “rightly dividing the word of truth.”
A sentence is the smallest unit of grammar that has a definite meaning. Any meaning can be applied to a clause, phrase, or group of words when removed from the context of their sentence.
A sentence is a trinity, it must have a subject, predicate (verb), and a complete thought. Anything less than a sentence lacks one of those three and has no definitive meaning.
This error often insinuates if not directly teaches that men are not capable of having faith, that it is a gift that must be given them by God or more to the point, it is God’s or Christ’s faith that is given to us. This fallacy has been leavening the Church for centuries. Today the fruit of that leavening is evident in the error discussed in this study.
To begin this study we will consider the biblical definition of faith in all its aspects. The definition of faith may be well known to many but due to the attacks on it, a refresher is not unreasonable.
The errors covered here are far from harmless, their unforeseen consequences are very destructive. I have seen first hand a young family ill-equipped weak in the faith being pushed out to a supposed calling on the basis of not to worry God will give you the faith to succeed or you are not going on your faith it is the Lord’s faith that will sustain you. Unfortunately, the Lord’s faith did not sustain nor was faith provided and a young family was destroyed, torn apart when the young man was overwhelmed, returning to the world losing his wife and children.
There should be no doubt that if Satan can destroy one family with this deception many others have or will be also. This teaching is a pernicious falsehood with devastating repercussions and it has been seeping into the thinking of many Bible teachers who are not diligently studying it out.
Make the word of God as much as possible its own "Comparing spiritual things with spiritual"
Sir Isaac Newton 1642-1727
English Physicist & Mathematician
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
God has elected that we must have faith as a determining factor as to whether or not we "please him" Few of the disputes and controversies debated within the Church are as important or as consequential as those embroiling faith. It is required of us to be pleasing to God, essential for salvation and its absence in anything constitutes sin.
Romans 14:23 ...for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.
For these reasons, it would seem that understanding what the Scriptures mean by it would be advisable.
The definition of “faith” or rather the perceived definition is itself a stumbling block and has been for centuries. It is often added to and occasionally considered to be a mystical quality beyond man’s ability to have.
Faith is a divine virtue that can only occur in the human breast by an act of divine grace
Thomas Aquinas 1225-74
Faith is the gift of God's grace; it is not merited, earned, nor self-created
But, what do the Scriptures have to say?
As this is a word study it would be proper to begin by simply looking at the dictionary definition of faith. Most abridged dictionaries will give the two most common meanings.
Confidence, reliance, trust; Belief
That which is believed or the object of belief
The two meanings simply look at faith from opposite ends.
I have faith in this — This is my faith
I have faith in Jesus Christ — I hold to the faith of Jesus Christ
>Revelation 14:12 Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.
“That keep...the faith of Jesus.” The fact that faith can be looked at from these two directions will be a very important concept to remember in studying this error. Two examples of it being used for the objects of belief is found in Galatians and 1 Timothy.
Galatians 1:23 But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed.
1 Timothy 3:9 Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.
“The faith” in these verses stands for the corporate beliefs or objects of belief that Paul once persecuted but now preaches. He persecuted those who held faith in Jesus Christ, he persecuted “the faith of Jesus Christ,” thankfully, he now holds “the faith of Jesus Christ.”
The biblical definition of faith is also to believe.
Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is,...
“Faith...must believe,” having the faith needed to please God begins with believing he is.
Isaiah 43:10 Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.
The Lord has always been attempting to get men to believe, put their faith, in him.
Numbers 14:11 And the LORD said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me? and how long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs which I have showed among them?
Deuteronomy 32:20 And he said, I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end shall be: for they are a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith.
Faith is also defined in Romans as believing.
Romans 4:3-5 For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. 4Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. 5But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.
It is God who justifies the ungodly. Believing on him is defined in the above passage as exercising one’s own faith, “his faith is counted for righteousness.” Take note here that faith/belief is in contrast to works, “to him that worketh not, but believeth.”
Romans 4:16 Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,
Is the above verse speaking of Abraham’s faith being given to us or us having the same faith that Abraham had?
The Lord was consistently faulting men for not having faith.
Matthew 6:30 ...O ye of little faith?
Matthew 8:26 And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?…
Matthew 14:31 ...O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?
Matthew 16:8 ...O ye of little faith,...
Luke 12:28 ...O ye of little faith?
Matthew 21:25 ...Why did ye not then believe him?
Mark 4:40 ...Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?
Mark 5:36 ...Be not afraid, only believe.
Mark 9:23 Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.
The point being, how can men be reproved of the Lord for not having something that they must obtain as a gift from him?
Many times Ephesians 2:8-9 is used to support the teaching that faith is a gift from God, and it is a good example of how the lack of applying the principles of basic grammar can lead to false interpretations.
Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9Not of works, lest any man should boast.
These two verses contain one compound sentence which by definition means it is two or more independent sentence put together to show a closer relationship. If we use our grammar knowledge we can clarify and obtain its correct interpretation. First, divide the compound sentence into its independent sentences.
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves.
It is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Now to find the simple sentences and its real complete thought, remove all the modifiers and conjunctions; adjectives, adverbs, etc.
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves.
It is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
This leaves us the two simple sentences.
Ye are saved. It is the gift.
In the first sentence “Through faith” as well as “by grace,” and “not of yourselves,” are prepositional adverbial phrases and are treated as one-word adverbs. They all modify the verb “are.” Being used in an adverb phrase the noun faith is not the antecedent to any pronoun, faith is not the gift. The noun “saved” is the antecedent to “it.”
Prepositional phases show relationships, on the table, under the table, etc. There are three relationships; ‘are by grace saved,’ ‘are through faith saved,’ and ‘are not of yourselves saved.’ The antecedent of “it” is the noun “saved,” not the noun “faith” which is being used as an adverb in an adverb phrase.
Ye are saved. It (saved) is the gift of God.
Understanding and applying basic grammar can be tedious but it is indispensable in rightly dividing the word of truth. By not doing so a phrase or group of words can be said to mean anything. Salvation is the gift of God’s grace, not faith. Salvation is granted to an individual through his faith in the gospel of Christ Jesus. Putting your faith in Christ Jesus is the requirement, the condition, to receive the gift of salvation. This is called Conditional Theology as opposed to Reformed or Universal Theology.
See the studies “Predestination,” and “The Foreknowledge of God.”
In determining biblically that faith is synonymous with believing we must also realize that believing is not necessarily faith.
John 20:29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.
You can believe something because you have seen and touched, "...because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed..." or by faith, "...blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed." This is a general principle, a precept, of the Scriptures that was most succinctly expressed by Blaise Pascal in the mid-1600s.
God has determined that divine things should enter through the heart into the mind, and not through the mind into the heart. In divine things, therefore, it is necessary to love them in order to know them.
Blaise Pascal 1623~62
French Mathematician, Physicist, Theologian
God has chosen believing by faith, not through knowledge and understanding. This is a general precept of God’s word. It explains why atheist, evolutionist and the like do not see and understand creation the same as men of faith. God will not allow it to be seen and understood even when that understanding would lead to believing in him or in his word. You must believe in him and his word first.
Acts 9:18 And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.
It is common for some to mistakenly assume God is preventing men from believing his word in verses such as the following:
Acts 28:26 Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive:
Matthew 13:14 And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive:
Mark 4:12 That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.
God is not preventing them from believing by faith from the heart, he is preventing them from understanding and believing from the head. He has chosen faith, to trust in him, even when you do not understand. To put it another way, God will not settle for wisdom and understanding gained leading to the discovery of him, wisdom and understanding must begin with and flow from him through faith in him. The eyes of faith see things a bit different than those of unbelief.
Men have faith in almost everything they normally do. Without faith, you are a Psychotic Paranoid Personality. Men have faith that they can drive headlong at each other with only a four-inch painted line to keep them from crashing. We could not open a door without faith that there was nothing on the other side that was going to hurt us. The Bible uses the word ‘faith’ in one sense, in reference to one thing and one thing only, “faith toward God.” Faith toward God, faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ, is its only biblical use.
Hebrews 6:1 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
Acts 20:21 Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.
It ought to be evident at this point seeing that faith is synonymous with believing and biblically it is in reference to “faith toward God” only, that it is each and every one of us that have to rouse that faith from within us. Believing/faith is not a gift, it is required of us.
Having this understanding of the biblical definition of faith we can use it to study and judge the correctness of the interpretations at issue, the errors that provoked this study.
Meditating On These Things
Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all.
1 Timothy 4:15
The error being opposed is the teaching that phrases as the following represent God’s or Jesus Christ’s faith and not our faith in them.
Romans 3:3 ...the faith of God...
Romans 3:22 ...by faith of Jesus Christ…
Revelation 14:12 ...the faith of Jesus.
Before we look at the context and begin diagramming sentences there is one more aspect of our “faith toward God” and Christ to explore.
Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
We know from the previous chapter that Hebrews 11:1 is not the definition of faith, it is rather an effect of faith. It is our “faith toward God” that is the substance of things hoped for. It is our walking in the faith, living by the faith, that is an evident token of the things unseen.
Philippians 1:27-28 Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; 28And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God.
Our living our faith condemns the lost, that is why they hate us. Our being steadfast in the faith is a witness of the truth and to the evidence of their own destruction. Our “faith toward God” is a testimony of the things we hope for and the evidence of those things not seen as yet. Trusting God, believing his word and obeying it is our works without which we have no testimony of our hope and salvation. That is why our faith without those works is dead because it has no effect on others.
James 2:17-18 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. 18Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
In light of this, the question must be asked, What is God going to put faith in? What has he got to hope for? He created all things, he sees all things, he knows all things. What is he going to have faith in? He is in control of all things!
We only see in part, we need faith.
2 Corinthians 5:7 (For we walk by faith, not by sight:)
1 Corinthians 13:12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
We cannot see it all thus we have to walk by faith. The contrast is faith opposed to sight.
Romans 8:24 For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?
God sees all, there is nothing for God to have faith in.
Psalms 139:12 Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.
Hebrews 4:13 Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.
Proverbs 15:3 The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.
Faith is not an attribute of God. So without examining the context or diagramming a sentence, we know that the teaching that these phrases are to be interpreted as God having or exercising faith is in error. God does not walk by faith.
The next chapter will look at some of the references that are being misinterpreted and apply what has been shown as the biblical definition of faith to them. Below is a short review of what has been discussed up to this point.
Faith is believing
The Bible uses faith in only one sense, believing God
The Bible contrast faith against works
The Bible contrast faith against seeing
Faith is believing from the heart, not the head
With these points confirmed and in our minds it is time to approach the topic head-on.
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
2 Timothy 2:15
Our first reference will be the phrase “the faith of God,” which in actuality is just a group of words removed from the context of their sentence and chapter.
Romans 3:3 For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?
To interpret this verse you have to remember what was just stated in the previous chapter. Chapter two is a discourse on believing and non-believing Jews keeping or not keeping the law and that it will not affect the judgments of God.
Romans 2:12-13 For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; 13(For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.
Looking at verse 3 in light of chapter 2 we see that it is a contrast between belief and unbelief.
Romans 3:3 For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?
It is asking if the unbelief of some in “the oracles of God,” God’s word, will void the belief that others have in it.
Romans 3:2 Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.
Will their faith in God’s word be useless or without effect because someone else does not believe. The words “faith of God” here have the same meaning as in Titus.
Titus 1:1 Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness;
Will the unbelief of some in God’s word make void the faith/belief of God’s elect in his word? In accordance with the definition and use of the word “faith” in the Scriptures described in the previous chapters and keeping with the context that this passage is found in, this is the only interpretation that is biblically sound. To place any other interpretation on those words is against every precept of “rightly dividing the word of truth.”
There are several other references to which this error is applied.
Galatians 2:20 the faith of the Son of God
Ephesians 3:12 the faith of him
James 2:1 the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ
Philippians 3:9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
We would interpret the above the same as these below.
Romans 4:16 ...but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,
Philippians 1:27 ...the faith of the gospel;
Colossians 2:12 ...through the faith of the operation of God,...
Is Abraham imputing faith to us or is it our faith like Abraham’s, believing God? Is the gospel exercising faith or is it our faith in the gospel? Does the operation of God have faith or is it our faith in the operation? Clearly, this erroneous interpretation cannot be applied consistently and therefore must be suspect and rightfully questioned.
This false interpretation is often showcased with the use of Galatians 2:15-16. It is again the product of wrongly dividing the word of truth by taking the group of words “the faith of Jesus Christ” out of their context.
Look at Galatians 2:15-16, the two verses contain one sentence. We can break this sentence down without too much trouble.
Galatians 2:15-16 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 16Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
Here again, the only way to interpret the words “the faith of Jesus Christ” as Christ having faith is to take them out of the context of their sentence. By breaking this sentence down by taking all the modifiers out we will be left with a simple sentence of a subject, verb and the proper complete thought.
We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
Removing the modifiers leaves just the simple sentence of a subject being “We” and the verb “have believed.” Diagramming the sentence is easy enough.
We | have believed
The complete thought of the sentence is that they, the Jews, have believed something, put their faith in something. The Jews are the doers of the action.
The rest of the sentence contained in these two verses are modifiers either modifying the subject “we,” the verb “have believed,” and adding to and explaining the complete thought of “We have believed” or we have put our faith in something. They are going to tell us who “we” are and what and why “we” are believing.
Adding the modifiers back in for the subject first; “We” is modified to explain exactly who “We” is:
- We are Jews
- by nature
- not sinners of the Gentiles
- knowing that a man is justified
- not by the works
- of the law
- but by the faith
- of Jesus Christ
- not by the works
We see then that the subject “We” of the sentence are natural born Jews and not Gentile converts. Jews who are knowing that Justification is not in keeping the law but by faith.
The verb “have believed” is modified by:
- We have believed
- in Jesus Christ
- that we might be justified
- by the faith
- of Christ,
- not by the works
- of the law
- by the faith
We have the same phrasing as “the faith of Jesus Christ” in the phrase “the works of the law.” Is it the works that the law is doing on our behalf? Or is it the work “We,” the Jews, are doing in relation to the law? It is the works the Jews are doing in relation to the law. So it is with faith, it is their faith in or in relation to Jesus Christ, not Christ’s faith that justifies them. In relation to is a definition of “of,” not by the works (in relation) to the law.
It is understandable that studying, especially grammar, can be tedious work. Understanding what the Bible says requires it.
Ecclesiastes 12:12 ...and much study is a weariness of the flesh.
Another point that is good to remember is that verse numbers are not part of grammar and should not be taken into account in dividing and diagramming a sentence. They do serve an important role in aiding the study of the Scriptures in that they separate thoughts. A sentence has to have at least one complete thought but can have sub-thoughts combining to make that complete thought.
There are sentences in the New Testament that contain more than two hundred words, Colossians 1:21-29 as an example. These verses are often misread and misinterpreted. It may be a bit of effort to exercise proper grammar but it is worth it to ensure you are correctly interpreting and understanding God’s word.
Proverbs 2:3-5 Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; 4If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; 5Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God.
God never meant for everything in the Scriptures to be easy to understand. He would like to see some effort on our parts, some desire, to know and understand him.
By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.
We are admonished throughout the whole Bible to believe in, on, and put our total trust, our faith, in God and our Saviour Jesus Christ. Hebrews chapter eleven gives examples of men and women who trusted in God to exhort us to walk in that same faith.
Hebrews 11:1-40 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 2For by it the elders obtained a good report. 3Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. 4By faith Abel… 5By faith Enoch… 6But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is,... 7By faith Noah,... 8By faith Abraham,… 9By faith he… 11Through faith also Sara… 17By faith Abraham,… 20By faith Isaac… 21By faith Jacob,… 22By faith Joseph,… 23By faith Moses,… 24By faith Moses,… 27By faith he forsook Egypt… 28Through faith he kept the passover,… 29By faith they passed through the Red sea... 30By faith the walls of Jericho fell down,… 31By faith the harlot Ra hab…
Hebrews 12:1-2 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith;…
If the faith they all had was imputed to them or given as the gift of God then their example is void of meaning. Who cannot be strong in the faith if God gives you the faith to be strong? This teaching does one thing very well, it gives those weak in faith an excuse to remain so.
1 Peter 1:7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
Why would God try your faith if he has to give it to you? How could it not be found “unto praise and honour and glory?” The Lord deals with us, puts us through tough situations to try and build, test, and strengthen our faith in him.
There are only three things mentioned in the Scriptures that are imputed to men, iniquity, sin and God’s righteousness.
Psalms 32:2 Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.
Romans 4:8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.
Romans 4:6 Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works,
It is highly recommended you look up every one of those two hundred and thirty-one verses in the Bible that contain the word faith before you instruct on the question here contemplated. I list a few here so as to let the Lord speak for himself.
Mark 4:40 And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? How is It that ye have no faith?
Luke 8:25 And he said unto them, Where Is your faith?
Matthew 9:22 But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole.
Mark 2:5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.
Matthew 9:29 Then touched he their eyes, saying, According to your faith be it unto you. The Lord is looking for faith in man!
Luke 18:8 I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?
Why would this be a question if faith has to come from God?
Deuteronomy 32:20 And he said, I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end shall be: for they are a very froward generation, children in whom Is no faith.
Matthew 6:30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
If God has to impart faith, what criteria or condition was not met for those whom the Lord chided for not having it? How can he reprove them for not having something he has to give them?
1 Thessalonians 3:10 Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith?
If your faith comes from God, how can it be lacking anything?
The faith of Jesus Christ is the corporate beliefs that the Jews had in him, (the faith of Catholics, the faith of Baptist, the faith of Islam, etc.) The faith of Jesus Christ is what we believe in and about him.
The Lord by himself purged our sins, but to teach that man has nothing required of him, no action to take in the course of his salvation is an error; he must repudiate his self-righteousness, admit to his helplessness, hopelessness and sinful condition and trust by faith in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I hope that you will meditate and search the scriptures prayerfully concerning this subject and may God be merciful and open the eyes of us all to the truth, according to his holy word, Amen.